02 QAnon religion
CNN  — 

This is an exchange that happened on planet Earth in the year 2020 between NBC’s Savannah Guthrie and President Donald Trump:

Guthrie: Let me ask you about QAnon. It is this theory that Democrats are a Satanic pedophile ring and that you are the savior of that. Now, can you just once and for all state that that is completely not true and disavow QAnon in its entirety?

Trump: I know nothing about QAnon —

Guthrie: I just told you.

Trump: You told me. But what you tell me doesn’t necessarily make it fact, I hate to say that. I know nothing about it. I do know they are very much against pedophilia. They fight it very hard, but I know nothing about it. If you’d like me to —

Guthrie: They believe it is a Satanic cult run by the ‘deep state.’

Trump: — study the subject. I’ll tell you what I do know about: I know about Antifa and I know about the radical left. And I know how violent they are and how vicious they are. And I know how they’re burning down cities run by Democrats, not run by Republicans.

That’s the President of the United States not only refusing to condemn an Internet conspiracy theory – and group – that the FBI has said is a potential domestic terrorism threat but also offering them a quasi-endorsement.

Even by the embarrassingly low bar that Trump has set for himself, this is really, really, really bad. For a lot of reasons.

Let’s go through them.

1) It is absolutely impossible for Trump to “know nothing” about QAnon, a movement that believes, among other outlandish things, that Trump is working to root out, round up and jail pedophiles and Satan-worshippers embedded within the highest levels of the government. Not only does Guthrie tell Trump – in precise terms – what QAnon is right before she asks him whether he will denounce the group, Trump has been asked repeatedly about QAnon in the past. And he has repeatedly dodged – or worse.

Here’s what Trump said about QAnon in August:

“Well, I don’t know much about the movement other than I understand they like me very much, which I appreciate. But I don’t know much about the movement. I have heard that it is gaining in popularity and from what I hear it’s – these are people that – they watch the streets of Portland – when they watch what happened in New York City in just the last six or seven months, but this was starting even four years ago when I came here. Almost four years, can you believe it?

“These are people that don’t like seeing what’s going on in places like Portland, and places like Chicago, and New York and other cities and states. And I’ve heard these are people that love our country and they just don’t like seeing it.”

This is an old (and worn-out) tactic by Trump. Remember that when he was asked by CNN’s Jake Tapper in February 2016 whether he rejected the support of KKK leader David Duke, Trump said this:

“Just so you understand, I don’t know anything about David Duke, OK? I don’t know anything about what you’re even talking about with White supremacy or White supremacists. So I don’t know. I don’t know – did he endorse me, or what’s going on? Because I know nothing about David Duke; I know nothing about White supremacists.”

Sound familiar?

2) Trump, despite pledging to “know nothing” about QAnon, manages to praise their fight against pedophilia. Pedophilia is, of course, one of the most grievous crimes in the world. (I, personally, would say it is the worst.) No one supports pedophilia and everyone backs the fight against it. But let’s be very clear about what QAnon thinks about pedophilia.

Here’s how Kevin Roose of The New York Times explained it in an article on QAnon:

“QAnon is the umbrella term for a sprawling set of internet conspiracy theories that allege, falsely, that the world is run by a cabal of Satan-worshiping pedophiles who are plotting against Mr. Trump while operating a global child sex-trafficking ring.

” … Many of them also believe that, in addition to molesting children, members of this group kill and eat their victims in order to extract a life-extending chemical from their blood.”

So, yeah.

3) Trump pivots to Antifa. Look, this is not a zero-sum game. It is totally OK to condemn QAnon and Antifa! (For more on Antifa, read this.) Trump is forever engaging in what-about-ism, always trying to suggest that the ideological left is just as bad or worse than the ideological right. What he fails to realize is that by forever trying to play a game of oh-but-what-about-this-thing-that-someone-on-the-left-said, he misses the point. As president, you have to be willing to say that you condemn hate speech, violence and irresponsible conspiracy theories whether or not the propagators of that garbage support you or oppose you.

Which brings me to this final point: Trump knows plenty about QAnon. Just like he knew plenty about Duke. And lots of other fringe groups that he has equivocated on. The reason he is unwilling to condemn them publicly is because he likes anyone who likes him. Remember that Trump is a purely transactional figure. If you say nice things about him – whether you are Vladimir Putin or Recep Tayyip Erdoğan or Kim Jong Un – he will say nice things about you. And if that helps him win a few votes, all the better!

This is not, of course, what being president is about. Not even close. But at this point, nothing should be shocking.